Tag Archives: aging

Force of Nature

I am not a big fan of time today.

This girl..

..is now this teen.

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And she is, quite simply, a force of nature.  Her smile is infectious, and her bad mood can disappear on a dime.  She’s a talker with no filter and a math whiz who hates math.

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She throws a roundhouse that feels like a log and talks smack about sports better than a middle aged man. She’s made me proud and pissed off in the same moment on several occasions in her short life, and she’s sure to do so again.

Today, my youngest became a teenager….  I couldn’t be a more thankful and hopeful mother.  I couldn’t be less of a fan of time.

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Letting Go and Logos

I took a break last night from kung fu, aided by nasty weather and aggravated arthritis.  I spent the evening instead working on a logo for a baking venture that’s starting to feel inevitable, if only for a little extra money to spend on kung fu!  I came to logo creation after putting in yet another phone call to the director of children’s programs at the gym to see if they’ll let me teach a kung fu class.  They told me she was in a meeting.  So I thought it best to turn my attentions to another potential income venture that makes me happier than my job currently does.

I can probably count on one hand the number of times in my life I’ve consciously told myself to let something go, following it with the thought that if something is supposed to happen it will.  That’s because my natural tendency is to be a doer and a fixer.  If I want something to happen, I try to make it happen – often to the consternation of others involved in the happening.

I really want to teach kung fu again.  So I’ve done the best I can to press without being scary.  That, in and of itself, is a big deal for me – the whole attempt not to be scary.   Ten years ago, it was practically my motto to let the chips fall where they may.  But last night, I told myelf not to send this woman another email after she failed to take my call and return it, and I didn’t.

Not being scary has gotten me six weeks of “we’ll get back to you.”  It’s also now gotten me a logo for a baking venture.


Never Seems to Show

Sifu has put me on notice: next month I will be performing the traditional long staff form as part of the black sash demonstration on testing night.  January’s testing night, unlike December’s, will have a very large audience since a new black sash will be joining the ranks.  I’m nervous already.

I love this form, and I’ve practiced it an average of forty-five times a week in the almost eight months that I’ve known it.  I’m told I’m very good at it.  But that never seems to show when I do it for a testing demo.

The problem is I get cold.  I run the floor during testing, so I’m standing on my arthritic, cartilage-lacking, locked-at-attention knees for the entirety of the testers’ performances, tensing up sometimes as I mentally follow along with their movements. Then, with about five minutes of warm up on a floor that I have to share with the other black sashes who are doing demos as well, it’s suddenly show time.

This body can’t perform on demand like that and execute at its best.  Which is why I’ve declined the last two times Sifu has asked me to do a demo.  Now, he’s done taking no for an answer.  Truthfully, I’m surprised he ever accepted no in the first place.

It’ll be fine.  It may even be very good.  The last time I did long staff in public was at a tournament in October, and I scored high even with a couple of errors.  So why don’t I just stay in the moment, keep practicing, and hold off worrying until the last Saturday in January?  Because that would be sensible.  And when it comes to kung fu, I stopped being sensible a long time ago.  During the blizzard of 2010 to be exact.  A story for another day.


Pondering Gratitude

I have an employer that offers a stellar comprehensive insurance plan at a reasonable cost to me.  Far too many people are not as lucky.  I’m very grateful. Were it not for my employer’s generosity, I probably couldn’t have stayed with kung fu long enough to become maniacally crazy about it.  The cost of patching up my legs three times would have been too high.

This is what I was thinking at eight o’clock in the morning, as I sat in the waiting room of the doctor my internist sent me to in the hopes he could do something about the lower back pain and sporadic sciatica that my orthopedist doesn’t treat.  I had a considerable amount of time to ponder my gratitude – an hour to be exact – because the woman who signed in five seconds before me, with an appointment time thirty minutes after mine, was erroneously seen first.  I couldn’t help but ask the receptionist: “Then what’s the point of having appointments if you just have to walk in first?”  I received neither a response nor an apology. That seriously muted my gratitude.  But I digress.

The flip side of appreciating the quality medical care I receive (and believe all should have) is anxiety.  What happens to my kung fu life if I lose this level of care?  It most likely goes away.

I realize that’s an upper Northwest kind of problem, as a D.C. native would say (i.e. high class), particularly when the question for many others is: what happens to life itself without healthcare?  But it would most definitely be a problem, on so many levels, were it to happen.  So chronic pain and long waits aside, I remain indisputably grateful that I continue to be patched up… and that the price of the patching is one I can still afford.


Cupcakes Won’t Do It

Proof that God has an interesting sense of humor: the part-time job that’s unpaid means about fifty times more to me than the one that gives me a paycheck.  And that’s a conservative estimate.

Another weekend over, and rather than making a mental checklist of all I have to do tomorrow at the office (and it’s a lot, with Christmas right around the corner, two interviews taping in studio beforehand and one that I have to do in the field), I’m thinking about items attached to the assistant teaching gig.  I’m wondering if the two white sashes who are testing this month will be in class Monday evening and if they cleaned up their palm strikes.  I’m hoping the yellow sashes have corrected their front kicks or at least gotten the incorrect ones waist high.  I’m hoping the damned commuter train comes in on time and traffic is reasonable, so I only arrive five minutes after the students instead of fifteen. And I’m thinking about a key.

Apparently there was a time in our school’s history when the founder handed out keys left and right to any black sash who asked for one.  That era is over.  A few weeks ago, I asked Sijeh Melanie if there was any way I could bribe Sifu to give me a key.  Her response:  “Well, I had to be married to him before I got one.”  I guess homemade cupcakes won’t do it, then.

We headed home from three hours of Saturday classes at about 1:15.  By the time five o’clock rolled around, I’d showered, worked the kinks out of my leg muscles with my massage roller, eaten, chatted it up with my family, and baked two different kinds of cookies.  At that point, I turned to my son and said, “Okay, I’m rested.  Let’s go back to kung fu now.”

“If I didn’t have to study for exams, Mom, I’d be right there with you,” my fellow die-hard answered, playing along with my fantasy.  Only it probably wouldn’t be a fantasy if I had a key to get back in.  Perhaps that’s why I haven’t been offered one.

Yep, it’s an interesting sense of humor.


The Kid in the Room

At my age, the only thing that can make me sound and act like a five-year-old is to get a correction right in kung fu.

“I did it!” I squealed, fists raised to the ceiling in triumph, with the right one still clenching my trusty staff.  (The “it” was relatively simple, as it often appears to be – but only after I’ve gotten something right that spent far too long being wrong.)

Sifu Kevin looked at me and nodded with a momentary smile, before practicing a section of a wushu sword form that was so fast, loud and frenetic his own niece had once been frightened by the performance.  His expression to me was one that could be found on any parent at a playground whose child had requested that they watch some fantastic display of athletic ability.  In other words, it was a psychic pat on the head.

I couldn’t help but laugh quietly as I walked to the back of the rotation line, staying close to the wall to prevent being nicked by the blade as Sifu ran past me.

I’m old enough to be his much older sister or his frighteningly-young mother, but I’m the kid in this relationship…and I’m now okay with that.

“Maybe you have a problem with my age…” was something then-Siheng Kevin wrote to me in a long ago email, complaining about my propensity to question and explain, or rather my inability to simply say, “Yes, sir” or “No, sir,” when spoken to – and nothing else.

I reread that thought of his several times and tried to consider it objectively.  Had I ever, before kung fu, been in a position where I was expected to follow the directives of someone younger than I?  I couldn’t find an instance in my personal life, nor in my professional one.

The single exception had been in tae kwon do. But there, all the teachers below Sensei were within a couple of years of my age, not more than a dozen years younger.  With the age difference between Kevin and me (and several other kung fu teachers), I at least qualified as a contemporary, not a subordinate.  That was the thought existing somewhere in my head that I hadn’t bothered to consciously acknowledge until Sifu called me on it, back in my green sash period.

There’s a more martial attitude in my Baltimore kung fu school than there was in D.C. tae kwon do.  Sensei had been accorded a formal response to every sentence she uttered, but all other teachers were addressed by their first names, no titles.  I was, in essence, accustomed to being instructed by a compatriot who knew more than I, rather than directed by someone whose higher ranking I had to acknowledge at all times.  It was culture shock of the highest order.  And with every other thing going on in my life at the time (see post “Let Up Already!”) – and my natural propensity to say what’s on my mind – it served as one more hard thing to handle.

Fast forward several promotions and years later, and I’m looking for approval and a psychic pat on the head from the young-un in the blue pants (from my southern heritage, “young-un” is the appellation I attach to anyone who wasn’t alive in the 1970s!)  I was obviously won over somewhere along the line.  And I’m more than fine with that.


Let Up Already!

It’s been snowing all day, and I’m annoyed.  I haven’t had to drive anywhere; I haven’t even had to walk anywhere.  But in this day and age of technology, gaming and not doing anything that might cause one to break a fingernail, many are slow to pick up a shovel and a bag of salt to clear sidewalks in anything remotely akin to a reasonable amount of time.  I’ve also noticed, in more than twenty-five years of living below the Mason Dixon Line (after growing up in often-snowy New England), that city officials don’t ever seem to prepare well for winter.  They usually have far more important things than snow plows and the personnel to run them on which to spend tax dollars.   Bottom line: I’d be shocked if my children have school tomorrow.  And I want them to have school Monday.  I want it rather badly.  That’s why I’m annoyed.

Is it really a big deal if my 12-year-old daughter, Ava, and my 16-year-old son, Aaron, bum around the house a couple of weeks before winter break, get in one another’s way and thoroughly erase the weekend’s housework in a matter of hours?  Of course not.  But our kung fu school is closed anytime that weather closes the city schools.  And that is a very, very big deal!

I need my Monday training.  I need it more than any other day’s, because with the school closed on Sundays, the longest gap in training time is between the end of class in the one o’clock hour on Saturday and warming up in the five o’clock hour on Monday evening.  Think pack-a-day smoker going fifty-two forced hours without a cigarette.  Not pretty, believe me.  I used to smoke.

I gave myself a bizarre bruise of busted capillaries on the side of my index finger Saturday with an awkward – and obviously incorrect – slam of the staff against the floor.  Gotta fix that.  The slam, that is; not the finger.  The finger will have to take care of itself.

Getting a long staff back in my hands is the reason I look forward to Monday – that and helping teach the beginner class.  Getting up pre-dawn for an hour-long commute to work, after getting a couple of extra hours of sleep for two days over the weekend, makes me otherwise loathe Mondays.  Kung fu saves the day – literally.  Only a late train home and an exceptionally clogged drive from the station to the school can make me walk through the door unhappy on a Monday.  Such a far cry from how I walked in the door the very first time back in 2008.  Then, I walked in angry and uncomfortable, though I didn’t know it at the time.

I’d moved up the highway with my family just before the housing market implosion.  My adolescent son, who was significantly less than thrilled to be leaving his hometown of D.C., had already entered the phase of life in which everything parental was bad, stupid, irritating or meaningless.  So between being unhappy about moving to Baltimore and just being a tween, he could generate hostility merely by walking into the room.  Going to kung fu required sharing a seven mile car ride with my bundle of joy.  So it was easy to be tense by the time I got there.

I can’t put it all on Aaron, though.  I still had the job in D.C., and the first year in Baltimore, I drove to work every day.  I was probably more wound up from my commute than I realized back then.  I mean, by the time seven or eight months had passed, it was clear as day that I was going to kill somebody if I didn’t conquer the commute.

I also wasn’t all that happy at the job I was commuting to.  I’d changed departments around the same time we started going to kung fu – a change I’d requested, but I wasn’t doing very well at the new gig.  It was a job that had more to do with putting correct information into a database in the right way at the right time than anything else.  I had too much ADD and too little enthusiasm for data entry to do it well.

I was a television news producer.  I researched political, legislative, executive topics of the day, found the right guest to discuss it, found the right graphics and pictures and video to enhance the story, formulated the right questions and put it all on the air in the hands of the host.  Going from that to primarily data entry made me want a new employer all together.

And, there was losing mom.  I probably should have mentioned that first.  That’s called burying the lead.

We moved to Baltimore one year and three weeks after she died.  We started taking kung fu classes two weeks after what would have been her sixty-sixth birthday.  In fact, we’d started tae kwon do in D.C. right around the time she told me that the cancer was back.  Two years – and for me, two knee operations due to tae kwon do injuries – later, she was gone.  And I certainly wasn’t over it a lousy year later, if one ever is.

So that was the general picture of my life when I returned to martial arts after being sidelined for a year by injuries, the death of my mother, relocation to a new city, and a requested reassignment at work that wasn’t going so well.  Yeah.  I was definitely angry and uncomfortable in the early days of kung fu.  Now, I howl at Mother Nature to let up already on the snow and ice so I can go train!

Quite the transformation it’s been.  Let me count the ways….